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Splitting time between a garbage-strewn apartment and an overly affectionate hot dog vendor, the observant thirteen-year-old at the center of Here They Come gives lyrical voice to an unforgettable instant ? 1970s New York, stifling, violent, and full of life. Balanced between her enigmatic siblings, borderline parents, and a quiet sense of the surreal, she recounts a year of vivid, mundane moments with dark humor and deadpan resilience. By the author of the New York Times Notable Book Sea of Trees.
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Splitting time between a garbage-strewn apartment and an overly affectionate hot dog vendor, the observant thirteen-year-old at the center of Here They Come gives lyrical voice to an unforgettable instant — 1970s New York, stifling, violent, and full of life. Balanced between her enigmatic siblings, borderline parents, and a quiet sense of the surreal, she recounts a year of vivid, mundane moments with dark humor and deadpan resilience. By the author of the New York Times Notable Book Sea of Trees.
I see them coming down the avenue from my fire escape, their cart umbrellas folded in. Their slow walk is like an amble through a still sleeping village alongside a donkey-drawn wooden-wheeled cart loaded with bundles of sticks for starting small fires.
I know the one walking past the Charlie Bar across the street. He is named John. He gives me a Hershey from the bin at the bottom that stores the spongy buns. In summer I sit on hislap when it is slow, and morning, and eat the Hershey while I feel his fingers creeping up my waist and to my tits. Meanwhile, the hot dogs boil, the sauerkraut warms, and the sodas cool on ice.
John doesn't have front teeth. He says it's from eating rocks baked in bread where he comes from. He takes pictures of me with a camera he wears around his neck and shows me them developed. Bad pictures where the sun is behind me and I'm a whoosh of bright light, or under a park bush, too dark to be seen, maybe just my leg on the dirt that is patted-down park dirt, run over by rats at night and where minty gum wrapper is thrown throughout the day.
At home I sit on the toilet looking at the water heater where Louisa has drawn in cray-pas faces of the boys she likes at school. We all say she could be the artist. She has sketched me with the cat curled in my lap. It's winter and so cold in the house the cats are always barnacled to us. When we're sitting in chairs they're on our laps and when we walk across the house they trot after us, waiting for us to sit again. When we sleep they lie on our heads and our backs and our feet and if we roll over or kick they grab onto us with their claws and dig in through the blankets, scared to be tossed from our warmth.
* * *
In the morning, when our mother wakes, she is the first to take the stick end of the plunger and break the ice in the toilet so she can pee without it splashing back. In our beds we hear the chink-chink of the ice cracking.
My father lives uptown with a short blonde he found on a set, porno or not, we don't know. I looked through her drawers once and held up her lace bras and put one on and then my father called me from the other room and we went sledding down Dog Hill, me wearing the slut's black bra number on top of Jody and Jody on top of Louisa and then we fell over at the end of the ride and bent the sled's runner, our weight too much for the metal.
My father's drinking and telling us how stupid his slut is because she thinks the sun is not a star. She's not here because it's Christmas Eve and we're spending it alone with him in his apartment and she's with her brothers somewhere out in New Jersey with a big fir tree they cut down off their parents' land for their Tannenbaum. I'm beginning to think his slut's smart, that maybe she's right and the sun is not a star but it's a planet and this adds to my choices of where I could go when I leave this world and I feel I've expanded my horizons and found the far west. My Christmas present is a doll with red hair and a plaid skirt but I give her an Indian name and call her Tenderleaf Teresa. The first thing I do after I unwrap her is cut her hair. I think it needs a trim. My brother laughs and tells me her hair won't grow back. The cab ride home is like a rocket trip, we hit every green light and there are no other cars because it's Christmas Eve. I've never gone anywhere so fast in New York in all my life.
I imagine I'm my father's slut and I'm in New Jersey in a room that smells like Christmas and there's snow outside on the ground lit up by moonlight and blond brothers in oxfords singing the first Noel and slightly swaying on the backs of their heels while they've got their arms around each other and around me. I imagine I'm his slut and I'm happy and it's Christmas and I'm with blond brothers and the sun is a planet, and the phone is ringing and ringing somewhere in my parents' country home and it's my tanked sugar daddy trying to call after his four kids have left and now he wants me and he wants a little of my Hallmark Christmas, a piece of my pumpkin pie, a feel of glossy gift wrap and a whiff of the pine and a taste of what's nutmegged and powdered sugary and meant well, the creche holy and blessed. It's my scab-headed Cal, my drunk drunk on the huge-size Gallo they sell for mixing vats of sangria he drinks alone after his kids have scampered back downtown.
"Let it ring," I say to my blond brothers, and we do and we continue with our Christmas and our swaying and watch ourselves armlinked and distorted in our red and green bulb tree ornaments as we sing.
Excerpted from HERE THEY COME by YANNICK MURPHY Copyright © 2006 by Yannick Murphy. Excerpted by permission.
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